Sunday, December 31, 2006

Heb’ Kab’nal
The Lacandones

A Q'anjob'al Maya story

Ay jun ab’ix chiyal intxutx yet heb’ jichmam tzet maxyun pitz’oj heb’ a heb’ anima yet payxa. K’am chi pitzk’oj heb’ yuj no’ tiltik chijayi chi chiontoq no’ chiyab’en no’ b’ay chiajteq heb’ unin okoq. Maxb’et chalayayteq a no’ chib’et chaonayteq. Chi pitzk’oj jun jun unin chi chionaytoq no’ k’am chipitzk’oj heb’ anima. Axa P’elixh maxnaoni tzet oq-yun pitzk’oj heb’ anima kaq ti’ ta kak’alti’. Maxpitzk’oj heb’ maxsayon rason. Maxb’et sayonteq te’ q’olal taj maxtoj b’ay nanlaq ak’al. Maxb’et chikon chib’ej. Maxyab’en no’ tiltik tu’ jab’ chib’ej tu’ maxayk’ay no’ kaq chiyun yayk’ay no’ ostok. Maxb’et maxayk’ay no’. Chikon P’elixh tu’ te’ q’olal taj tu’. "Echinb’el wuxhtaq oqachlowoq ti’ chiwat’nej alob’ej." Maxyi’onaj te’ q’olal taj tu’ lanan yuqi te’ maxq’anwontoq yul nuq’ no’ tiltik tu’ kax chikamel no’. A b’ay chib’etek’ jun junel chib’et ya’kan kam, otaqk’on waqtaqk’on lajlajonk’on tiltik. Kay tu’ maxyun kami. Kay tu’ maxyun pitzk’ojkan heb’. Axkatu k’amxa maqtxel oqchiontoq heb’ kax maxpitzk’ojkan heb’. Axkatu maxyun pitzk’ojkan heb’ anima yet antiwo ley yet heb’ jichmam.

There is a story my mother tells about our ancestors, how it happened they grew [progressed] those people from long ago. They do not progress because of the lacandon. They [the lacandones] come, they eat, they hear where they [children] go up, the children enter [the steambath]. [And they] go to receive, those animals go receiving to themselves. Each child is born, the animal eats him up, the people do not progress. And so Vírvez [P’elixh] was thinking: How will it happen the people grow, thus if it is [to be] they grow [and he] looked for a way. He went looking for pine resin, he went in among the valleys. He went to cook meat. Those lacandon smelled the meat [and] they fell as it happens the buzzard falls. They went, they fell down. That Vírvez was cooking that pine tree sap. "Wait, my brother, you will eat, here I am preparing your meal." And he raised up that pine tree resin—it was boiling—[and he] threw it down the throats of those lacandones and they died. There he went by every time he went to leave them dead—five, six, ten animal lacandones. Thus it happened that they died. Thus it happened the people continued to grow. Thus no more will anyone eat them up and they progressed. So it happened the people grew in the old law of our ancestors.

This story is about a group of Ch'ol-speaking Maya people called the Lacandon, or Lacandones, who were never conquered by the Europeans and who were apparently not on good terms with the Q'anjob'al at this point in history. Note that the story-teller (see below) uses the term no' tiltik for the Lacandon, instead of the usual Q'anjob'al term naq kab'nal. The no'(1) is a classifier for animals (most Q'anjob'al nouns take some type of classifier usually translated 'the' in English), and the tiltik was described by informants as an inhuman, vampire-like creature with deep red eyes and long black clothes over a skeleton. There is one occurrence of lajlajonk'on tiltik, with lajlajon (ten) and k'on the numerical version of the no' classifier for animals. The word naq is a human classifier used with kab'nal, the actual term for the Lacandon, but her repeated use of no' tiltik seems to indicate her equation of them with something less than human probably due to their behavior.

Note the Spanish borrowings: anima (borrowed into most Mayan languages and in Q'anjob'al means 'person' or 'people'), rason (razón, reason), antiwo (antiguo, old), and ley (law).

This story was told by Eulalia Garcia M., a native speaker of Q'anjob'al, as it appears in an International Journal of American Linguistics (IJAL) article of 1980 by Laura Martin.

The article's English translation is not too smooth, but it gets the basic idea across.

(1) In Q'anjob'al, you cannot simply say "I have a dog" or "There is a house." You must use the appropriate classifiers for dog or house: Ay jun no' hintx'i' (exists-one-[animal]-my-dog) or Ay jun te' na (exists-one-[wood]-house; te' the classifier for houses, wooden objects, etc.). There is no verb 'to have' in Q'anjob'al.


Rob said...

About how many speakers of Q'anjob'al exist today?

Also, I know some Maya communities practice Catholicism brought by European colonists, but to what extent are indigenous beliefs practiced?

Dave said...

There are about 80,000 or so current Q'anjob'al speakers in Guatemala and Mexico.

I'm not sure about the practicing of indigenous beliefs. I suspect it may be a mixture of both.

Rob said...

You know, a group of languages I would like to know more about is Uto-Aztecan. Perhaps because most the language spoken around Utah (Ute, Paiute, Hopi, Shoshone) are Uto-Aztecan. I feel remarkably ignorant knowing nothing about the surrounding languages.

Dave said...

Me too! I'd especially like to know about Nahuatl. But like the old song goes, so many languages and so little time.

Or was that women and wine?

Mayumi said...

Do you happen to know the Q'anjob'al counting system?